An Overview By Rabbi David Kosak

Another Night, the Same but Different—Passover 5781

What does hope look like to you? Is it a flower seed, something small that needs tending before it can burst into short-lived color? Is it a small bird, taking flight in the night sky, certain of the way? Perhaps for you, hope is an ancient redwood, persevering through a thousand winters?

Or maybe your hope is a cage that darkens the way rather than illuminating it, keeping you locked into a far-fetched dream that prevents you from embracing what is in front of you? As it states in Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs, tochelet m’musha’cha machala lev.  “Drawn out hope sickens the heart.”

Passover this year seems an important time to consider how hope plays out in our lives. The Biblical account of slavery and freedom shows what a tenuous grasp of hope our ancestors had. They angered at Moshe, blaming him when Pharaoh worsened their living conditions. They pleaded to return to Egypt when their desert path proved too difficult.

Simultaneously, the order of the Haggadah begins with hopelessness and ends with uplift. The haggadah and the Seder are implicitly optimistic works, teaching us to count our blessings and look toward still better days.

The final words of most haggadot is “L’shanah habah birushalayim.” Next year in Jerusalem.

The original context of that phrase was the promise of living free under self-autonomy. Last year, it was the hope that those of us who planned to go on the community trip to Israel would be able to do so this year. Now, it carries the hope of being able to travel anywhere again. It represents our desire for wider horizons.

Last year, after all, we were all rapidly adjusting to pandemic and life under quarantine. This year, we are experienced. We have been restricted, and have adjusted to life’s new limitations. We did what was required of us, wearing masks and socially distancing.

This year, we need Passover more than ever, precisely because so many people are worn-out and all of us have suffered moments of exhaustion. Vaccination rates are increasing, but so too are the virus variations. I personally believe and feel that there is a light ahead of us. Sometimes that hope is accompanied by a sense of giddiness or relief. That’s me.

Truth is, there are as many variations of hope as there are of freedom. In fact, those images of hope as a bird, a seed or a cage make clear, some types of hope emancipate us from life’s drudgery and trials, while other forms of hope can imprison us. It is a tenet of my faith that God wants the best possible outcome for all people. As we approach Pesach, I encourage you to search out the sort of hope that encourages you rather than discourages you. Seek a hope that is freeing. Be on the lookout for hope on the wing, the hope that can help you blossom, steadfast as a redwood.

That seems to be our task this Passover, our second in lockdown, even as we all prepare to cross the Sea of Reeds. Can you smell it? Can you taste it? It’s there, waiting for us to claim our birthright.


Passover During COVID-19

Many of the ritual leniencies our community permitted last year still seem appropriate for this year’s observance of Passover. There are times when being punctilious is sometimes the better course of action, both in ritual matters and elsewhere. Such diligence can make us feel that we are “doing it right” or help us connect with God and tradition.

During these times, following the lenient stream of our tradition will remain the best course for many of us. The following guidelines are halakhic, traditional, and tailored for life under pandemic.


Keep it Simple: Observe Pesach During the COVID Plague

This year, it is appropriate to do the minimum necessary to prepare for Passover. Cleaning your entire house is not necessary. Instead, focus on the kitchen, and make sure you nullify additional hametz with the prayer found in the beginning of most haggadot.

Put the rest of your unused hametz (food items made from wheat, oats, barley, rye or spelt, even if these ingredients appear in the smallest possible amount.) in a closet and sell those items to me.

The Rabbinical Assembly is encouraging all Conservative Jews to eat kitniyot this year (pulses, legumes, rice, etc) to ease observance and reduce financial hardship. I also believe we need to limit financial outlays when employment is lost or uncertain.

In this regard:

  1. Purchase tofu, rice, and beans before the holiday.
  2. All unflavored coffee, black, green, and white teas are acceptable—including decaffeinated. For those interested in the reasoning, please see the bottom of this message.*
  3. Opened spices that would otherwise be ok for Passover consumption are acceptable to use this year. One does not need to purchase new, unopened spices.

This year, you can click here for the Rabbinical Assembly’s more thorough instructions for Passover 2021, as well as a link to the CJLS Passover guide, which remains largely unchanged from last year.

Let me wish you all a happy, meaningful, and kosher Passover.

A Zissen Pesach,

Rav D


*Decaffeinated Coffee and Tea

While the RA still does not permit unhekshered decaffeinated coffee and tea for Passover, I hold it is permissible when purchased before the holiday begins. Below are the reasons for that decision. When creating a leniency of this sort, it is important that this does not occur in isolation; I vetted this with one of the three top poskim, or religious decisors, in the movement who agrees with my conclusions.

  1. The chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee or tea (ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, CO2 and water) are not themselves food items–EVEN IF SOURCED FROM CHAMETZ BASED INGREDIENTS.
  2. They do not therefore qualify as achilat kelev—food suitable for a dog. This is the minimum requirement for something to be considered food and therefore subject to kashrut restrictions.
  3. The chemicals are not davar ma’amid–they are not necessary or intended to remain in the decaffeinated coffee, in the way that rennet or gelatin is.
  4. The manufacturers don’t want the ingredient to remain, they merely wish to sell decaffeinated coffee or tea. So should these ingredients remain after processing, they are nullified by the manufacturers’ intentions.
  5. The chemicals used are targeted, as best as science permits, to the caffeine, and not other flavor elements, and it is the caffeine that is being removed.
  6. The chemicals themselves, if formed from hametz-based ingredients, are themselves davar chadash, or a new substance, and thus can’t in any way be considered as chametz.
  7. An observant Jew who purchases decaffeinated coffee or tea BEFORE Pesach also would not wish any slight remaining ingredient to be present, and it would thus be nullified by the buyer’s intention of batel b’shishim.

Shtar Harsha’ah: Document of Authorization for the Sale of Hametz

Passover 5781: Information

Decorative watercolor image of matzah and seder plate

Second Night *Virtual* Community Seder – Sunday, March 28, 6:00pm (Candle Lighting is after 8pm)

Join your CNS Kehillah for a 2nd-night seder on Zoom using the Haggadah created by and for our congregants. We’ll use all the fun Zoom offers as we journey through the Seder together. $10/member family | $15/non-member family.

Neveh Shalom Created Our Own Haggadah!

CNS Kehillah,

We are thrilled to share with you or 5781 Congregation Neveh Shalom Collaborative Haggadah. This Haggadah includes contributions in writing and video from every generation of our kehillah. When we read the story of the Exodus at our seder tables we’re reminded that the telling of the story from generation to generation, l’dor v’dor is essential in working towards a world without slavery. It is our hope that this communal and interactive Haggadah will help us reflect and grow this Passover.

How to use:  Click on THIS LINK to access it online (or you can download it as a pdf by clicking here). It is meant to be easily shared on zoom with your family seders. There are multiple videos included, if you click on the provided links in the Haggadah you’ll get to see and hear that section presented by members of our community (if you download the pdf, click the link below the image to access the video).

Zidell Chapel CNS

Passover “Siyyum”
Thursday, March 25, Time: 7:00am as part of Morning Minyan

On the morning of the Pesach seder (this year, because of Shabbat, it is on Thursday), firstborn children are required to fast in commemoration of the firstborn Egyptians who lost their lives during the tenth plague. Our fasting beautifully demonstrates our compassion even for our enemies. That said, we have another tradition to mark when we complete a book of Jewish learning with a celebratory meal. This “siyyum” overrides the fast for those who attend the study session. Mark Sherman and Gershon Liberman will be leading the Siyyum for Fast of the First Born.

Password: Neveh

Women’s Passover Event, Sunday, March 21, 8:00-9:00pm

Join Rabbi Eve Posen for an intimate evening of insight and inspiration as we gear up for Passover. This year’s theme is: We were slaves, now we are free. Registration required. Zoom link sent out prior to the event. No cost. Click here to RSVP.

Congregants Invited To Attend Yom Tov Pesach Services (With Pre-Registration), March 28 & 29, April 3 & 4, 9:00am

With an ever-evolving, and for now, seemingly improving situation on the Pandemic, the CNS Health Workgroup, Reopening Task Force, and Executive Committee have agreed to permit up to 12 congregants to attend Yom Tov (1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th) Passover services in person in the Main Sanctuary. There are, of course, health and safety protocols that must be agreed to and followed, and pre-registration / confirmation is required. We are all hopeful that this is just a first step toward gathering together in our Kehillah Kedosha, our sacred synagogue home. Please “click here” for the registration form and guidelines. *Deadline to sign up: Friday, March 19.

Passover Service Information

Candle lighting: 3/27: 8:23pm | 3/28: 8:24pm | 3/29: 8:26pm | 4/3: 8:32pm | 4/4: 8:33pm

*Office Closed

A Card For You!

Please enjoy this very special card and recipe for your family.

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